While the sporting world came to a shuddering halt in the immediate aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic spreading globally, darts carried on manfully.
Modus, the promotions and management agency, have been running their own Live League throughout lockdown, with players on their books playing against one another from the comfort of their own home.
But the competition has been rocked after two of its stars, Kyle McKinstry and Wessel Nijman, have been suspended by the Darts Regulation Authority (DRA) for alleged match fixing.
The charges have been brought after three matches involving the pair were flagged up by bookmakers, who reported a number of suspicious betting patterns to the International Betting Integrity Association (IBIA).
McKinstry lost 0-5 to David Evans in the Modus ‘A Night at the Darts’ show on April 30, with a number of larger-than-expected bets placed on that particular scoreline.
The second alleged incident occurred in a match between McKinstry and Nijman on May 2, while the Dutchman has already admitted taking a bribe to lose 0-4 to Evans on May 14.
After examining data presented by the UK Gambling Commission’s Sports Betting Intelligence Unit and Sportradar’s Integrity Services division, DRA chairman Nigel Mawer concluded that both players have a case to answer, while stressing that Evans has not been accused of any wrongdoing.
Nijman, a Development Tour winner who was tipped to appear at the World Championships in December, is accused of one-count of match fixing and he has already admitted his guilt.
Meanwhile, McKinstry, a former BDO World Championship quarter-finalist, faces two charges of match fixing and another of refusing to supply his itemised phone bill to investigators – the Irishman has already confirmed he will be launching an appeal.
His management company, MDA Promotions, have released a statement which reads:
“MDA Promotions are deeply disappointed with regard to Kyle McKinstry and match fixing allegations. This management prides itself on sporting integrity at all times and has done for its entire involvement in any sporting activity, darts or otherwise.”
A Question of Integrity
The Modus events have been quietly questioned on social media for the motivations of the players, with several PDC stars – including a former five-time world champion – averaging more than 30 points lower in some games than their standard performance.
But with bookmakers offering bets and live streaming on all of the matches played, suspicious performances were always going to be noticed – especially during the quietest period of lockdown.
Nijman has released a statement confirming his regret at throwing a game. The 20-year-old said:
“I would like to place on public record my sincere regret and apology for the mistake I made in relation to betting and match-fixing.
“I was put under some pressure to lose a match and I agreed to do this. I have admitted the offence and take full responsibility for it and will accept my punishment.
“My actions are a personal mistake made by me and not a reflection on the sport of darts.”
The punishments on offer to the DRA range from fines to lifetime bans.